Live to 90 and Beyond – Strategies that Promote Longevity
Do you ever wonder why some people live well into their 90’s? Is it genetics, lifestyle, luck, or have they found the Fountain of Youth? Seniors Helping Seniors in Orange County provides service to several ninety-year-old clients who take part in a unique study launched in 2003 by UC Irvine researchers. Known as the “90+ Study” it set out to better understand the oldest-old, the fastest growing age group in the United States. Fewer than 2 million Americans are older than 90, but there will be 10 million to 12 million of them by midcentury which presents a great challenge to our health and long term care systems. Read on to learn strategies to increase your chances of living a long life!
The 1600 participants in 90+ were once members of another groundbreaking study launched in 1981 and known as the Leisure World Cohort Study (LWCS). Leisure World is now incorporated as the city of Laguna Woods and home to a population of 18,000 older adults. The LWCS was launched to study the effect of modifiable lifestyle practices on longevity and successful aging. In other words, how could seniors change their lifestyle to live longer? Residents were mailed a detailed questionnaire and of the 22,910 residents who received the questionnaire 61% completed it. This is an amazing response rate for this type of study and provided researchers a look at the factors that seem to promote longevity. After reviewing the findings of the LWCS, researchers decided to go on and ask the question “What allows people to live to 90 and beyond? The results to date are surprising!
- People who drank moderate amounts of alcohol or coffee lived longer than those who abstained.
- People who were overweight in their 70s lived longer than normal or underweight people did.
- Over 40% of people aged 90 and older suffer from dementia while almost 80% are disabled. Both are more common in women than men.
- About half of people with dementia over age 90 do not have sufficient neuropathology in their brain to explain their cognitive loss.
- Vitamins A, C, E, and calcium had no effect on longevity, nor did drinking green or black tea.
- People aged 90 and older with an APOE2 gene are less likely to have clinical Alzheimer’s dementia, but are much more likely to have Alzheimer’s neuropathology in their brains.
- Study participants who exercised 45 minutes a day fared best, any more than that did not bring any additional benefits.
- Sedentary activities, such as reading, crossword puzzles, social engagements, and community involvement, turned out to be as important as physical activity in fostering longevity.
The results provide some guidance to those of us who would like to live to an old age. The next challenge will be figuring out how to do that in a way that lessens the disabilities that come with the advanced age. Now get up from that sofa, have a cup of coffee and maybe a glass of wine and get moving! When you return from your 45 minutes of physical activity pick up a crossword puzzle or reach out to your friends.